People wearing protective masks wait in line to receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a major vaccination site in Sacramento, California on Thursday, February 4, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Scientists and health officials told Congress on Friday that the federal government must increase its supply of Covid-19 vaccine doses to streamline the process for ingestion.
These two changes are crucial if federal officials want to increase the number of people who receive the shots, scientists and public health officials who have testified before the Science, Space and Technology House Committee.
“Even people who are motivated and enthusiastic about the vaccine can be put off by the slightest friction in the system, whether it is complex logistics, inconvenience or confusing instructions,” said Dr. Alison Buttenheim, Scientific Director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics.
The hearing will take place when elected officials and health professionals address hesitation and disinformation related to the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Fix the simple stuff,” said Buttenheim. “In all honesty, it’s often easier to fix these problems than to change someone’s mind.”
Dr. Philip Huang, director and health department for the Dallas County Department of Health, said the county is trying to address “logistical and problematic factors” by providing online registration and phone banking for vaccine appointments, and by working with community leaders to register people for vaccinations of drive-through vaccination stations.
Keith Reed, assistant commissioner for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said the state had opened an extended timeframe to give residents more time to sign up for vaccine appointments.
“In order to vaccinate as many Oklahomans as possible, we opened the authorization to new priority groups before we fully vaccinated previous groups,” Reed said. “With this tactic we hope to extend the time window.”
Initiatives to reduce logistical barriers to those who want to get vaccinations are particularly effective as vaccine supply in the US remains below community demand, panellists said.
“Supply is the problem at this point,” said Huang. “We have over 650,000 people signed up on our waiting list to be vaccinated and the health department is receiving 9,000 doses a week.”
Health officials stressed that all Covid vaccines available in the US are effective at protecting people from serious illness, hospitalization and death. They urged people not to wait for the vaccination to get a particular brand of vaccine based on perceived effectiveness.
“The best vaccine is the one you can get tomorrow,” said Buttenheim.